10 Players Who Hurt Their NBA Draft Stock in 2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
For some college basketball players, the 2013 NCAA tournament will provide indelible memories that will last a lifetime. But for the following 10 players, it will be one to forget.
Most of these college stars are on NBA radars. Some are highly touted prospects whose poor performances won’t significantly deter teams from taking a chance on them. But for mid-major stars who failed to advance, an early exit represents a missed opportunity in terms of exposure.
The Big Dance provides a stage, and the following players failed to seize it. Here are 10 players who hurt their stock in this year’s tournament.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart Pro-Player Comparison
In a debate over which sure-fire lottery pick to add to this list, I opted for Marcus Smart over Georgetown’s Otto Porter because of each player’s respective track record.
Porter struggled in the stunning upset to Florida Gulf Coast, but most scouts have seen the sophomore play numerous times. His length on defense, basketball IQ and shooting stroke are all superlative.
Smart has the talent of a top-five pick, but he also has the mindset of a freshman who’s better than his opponents. That’s why he takes so many shots (11.3 per game) and makes just 40 percent of them. He has unbelievable talent, but he’s a bit of a loose cannon and is somewhat careless with the ball.
In the opening-round upset loss to Oregon, Smart shot just 5-of-13 and had five turnovers. That’s obviously his downside, but the physical, athletic guard also had nine rebounds and five steals.
The loss won't have a major impact, but his turnovers are still a significant concern.
Ben McLemore, Kansas
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The freshman’s first (and likely only) NCAA tournament wasn’t his finest moment.
Ben McLemore often looked overwhelmed (especially against North Carolina), and Bill Self had to design plays specifically to get the shooting guard involved in the Jayhawks offense.
Over the three games, McLemore averaged just 11 points per game on 10-of-29 shooting, both significantly lower than his season averages. Against the Tar Heels, he managed just two points on 0-of-9 shooting.
McLemore was a top-five pick heading into the draft, and he’s still a high-end lottery pick—regardless of his postseason lull. His play throughout the Big 12 season—in particular, his three-point shooting—should alleviate any concerns about taking him high.
If nothing else, his tournament struggles will make GMs think a little bit longer before they take him with one of the top three selections.
Allen Crabbe, California
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Even though California sprung the upset of No. 5 UNLV in the first round and Allen Crabbe contributed 19 points, it still wasn’t enough to forget about his terrible showing against Syracuse in the second round.
Against arguably the tournament’s most unique and suffocating defense, Crabbe, a stretch forward, had three points with just 2:16 remaining in the game. He was reluctant to shoot the ball, hesitant to attack once he had it and coughed up five turnovers against the zone. He also had four turnovers the game before against the Rebels.
Evidently, Crabbe didn’t feel it was too terrible, as he recently announced his decision to forgo his senior year at California and enter the draft.
He’s projected as the 30th pick by DraftExpress.
Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Nate Wolters is exactly the kind of prospect (mid-major team) who needed the exposure that the NCAA tournament provides. Unfortunately, the Jackrabbits were slated against Michigan in the first round, and Michigan's relentless guards were able to keep Wolters out of the lane for much of the contest.
The Summit League Player of the Year was relegated to just 3-of-14 shooting for 10 points, six assists and five rebounds after averaging over 22 points per contest throughout the year. It was his lowest point total of the season.
On the bright side for Wolters, he was mostly responsible for shutting down Wooden Award winner Trey Burke, holding Michigan’s star to a season-low six points himself. At 6’4’’, scouts got a firsthand look at whether he’d be capable of handling smaller, quicker guards, but the question remains whether he could contain stronger shooting guards at the next level.
Nevertheless, his offense is his calling card, and Wolters’ struggles against elite competition didn’t help his cause. He’s projected as the 45th pick in this year’s draft by DraftExpress.
Erik Murphy, Florida
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
The 6’10’’ senior has tantalizing size, and his outside shooting would be a matchup nightmare against NBA forwards.
Unfortunately, Erik Murphy only showed glimpses of his potential in four NCAA tournament games. His best game came against Minnesota, when he finished with 15 points and two three-pointers against one of the best rebounding teams in the country.
But in the next two games—a win over FGCU and a loss to Michigan—Murphy scored four points on 2-of-18 shooting with just 12 rebounds and no free-throw attempts. Aside from Mitch McGary, Michigan doesn’t have a tall frontcourt, and Murphy couldn’t expose that advantage whatsoever, going 0-of-11 from the floor.
The senior is a 45 percent three-point shooter, but at 6’10’’, he needs to haul in more than 5.5 rebounds per game. DraftExpress has him as the 50th pick in the upcoming draft.
Cody Zeller, Indiana
Cody Zeller Pro-Player Comparison
In three tournament games, Cody Zeller averaged just 12 points and 6.6 rebounds, both significant dips from his regular-season averages. He also turned the ball over 11 times over that span.
Zeller's struggles were most glaring in the Sweet 16 loss to Syracuse, where the Hoosiers could find zero offensive sets to break the zone. He was mostly erased on the low block by the Orange’s length, and he shot just 3-of-10 on the night. Five of his shots were blocked, lending to the idea that NBA size could negatively impact Zeller’s offensive approach.
Zeller’s physical intensity has been questioned all season long, and the 7’0’’ center didn’t alleviate those concerns with his final two games against Temple and Syracuse. His size and mobility make him an intriguing prospect, but scouts have long wanted to see more fire from the sophomore.
He hasn’t announced whether he’ll come out yet, but CBS’ Jeff Goodman has him as the No. 5 pick if he does.
Elijah Johnson, Kansas
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Elijah Johnson, the Jayhawks' senior point guard, has all the physical attributes to succeed in the NBA. He’s big (6’4’’), agile and strong.
What he’s not, though, is consistent. Kansas’ biggest vulnerability was its backcourt play, and Johnson showed why. He struggled from the field and forced numerous mindless turnovers. In three total games, he finished with a 10-to-6 turnover-to-assist ratio, hardly an optimistic sign for a primary guard.
His only positive offensive game came against Michigan in the Sweet 16, but his 13-point, five-rebound, zero-assist effort was overshadowed by his five turnovers—not to mention his questionable conduct when he knocked Michigan’s Mitch McGary below the belt.
He definitely caught the attention of NBA scouts, but it wasn’t necessarily in a good way. DraftExpress has him pegged as the 24th-best senior, and Goodman doesn’t have him getting drafted.
James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
North Carolina’s 6’9’’ sophomore entered the season as the Tar Heels’ top prospect. Following the tournament, which saw North Carolina exit in the second round to Kansas, James Michael McAdoo still is, but he has some major question marks.
When looking at McAdoo, you have to look at him through the lens of how Roy Williams used him. He was the biggest starter on a four-guard set, and consequently, he was battling against guys like Jeff Withey.
To no one’s surprise, McAdoo lost that battle, going 5-of-19 with six rebounds as the Tar Heels blew a nine-point lead and wilted in the second half.
He won’t be a center in the NBA, so it’s tough to judge him fairly, but he could’ve helped himself against a team that had NBA-caliber size.
DraftExpress has him going 18th in this year’s draft. That’s excellent value for a once-highly touted forward, but the question remains whether he can play in the post at the next level. The tournament didn’t provide many answers.
Branden Dawson, Michigan State
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Branden Dawson is still a year or two away from testing the professional waters, but his body is already NBA-ready.
He has the strength to dominate college players, but he rarely seems to use it advantageously. Dawson hauled in just 14 rebounds in Michigan State's three games, and he averaged just four points per contest, despite averaging over 28 minutes in each matchup.
Dawson’s just a sophomore, but with the Spartans losing senior Derrick Nix in the post, he will need to be a more reliable rebounder, especially if he wants to stay in the good graces of rebounding fiend Tom Izzo.
Dawson had a chance to make a big-time statement against Duke in the Sweet 16, but his stat line—four points, three fouls, two rebounds—left a lot to be desired.
He's rated as the 13th-best sophomore in the country, according to DraftExpress, and he's projected as a late first-rounder in the 2014 draft.
Ryan Kelly, Duke
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Kelly has NBA size and next-level range. Not many 6’11’’ prospects knock down more than 42 percent of their three-pointers throughout an entire season.
But after his 36-point explosion against Miami in his first game back from a foot injury, Kelly regressed significantly. He shot just 3-of-26 from beyond the arc in the final seven games of the 2013 season. Against Michigan State in the Sweet 16, the Blue Devils prevailed, despite an 0-of-4 long-range night from Kelly.
Against Louisville, his seven points were far too little to help stop the Cardinals’ momentum following the Kevin Ware injury.
DraftExpress has him as the 18th-best senior, but his poor showing in the tournament undoubtedly diminished his chances at being drafted. He’ll need to put on some strength and prove to NBA teams that his jumper, both from outside and near the elbow, is as consistent as it was throughout the year.